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By John Ibbitson (@JohnIbbitson)
Many a young lass or lad has eagerly left their hometown, only to be dragged back to the nest by force of circumstance. Maybe that's why Justin Trudeau keeps finding excuses to get out of his hometown of Ottawa.
Today marks the second full day of deliberations at the Kananaskis, Alta., cabinet retreat, the second time this year the Prime Minister has whisked his ministers to someplace scenic and far from Ottawa. Immediately prior to the retreat Mr. Trudeau was in the United States for three days of boxing, theatre and deal-signing. It was his second trip to New York, this year, and his fourth to the United States, including that epic visit to Washington in March. And there was a jaunt to Davos, Switzerland, in January.
Mr. Trudeau has also been much on the move domestically. A perusal of his 2016 itineraries reveals domestic forays to Toronto (thrice), Waterloo (twice), Kitchener, Cambridge, London, Guelph, Peterborough, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie, all in Ontario; St. Andrews by-the-Sea, N.B. (the other cabinet retreat); La Loche, Sask., Edmonton (twice), Calgary (thrice), Montreal (four times), Quebec City, Vancouver and Halifax. A trip to Corner Brook, Nfld., had to be cancelled because of weather, but the family vacationed on Fogo Island in March.
Constant travel is part of a prime minister's job description, and Lord knows Mr. Trudeau's foreign forays have been good for Canada's international image. But they appear to be taking their toll on his time in the House.
Typically, a prime minister does not attend Question Period Monday or Friday, but is available the other three days, unless circumstances intervene. A study of Hansard reveals that Mr. Trudeau has been present for 68 per cent of the Tuesday-to-Thursday Question Periods during this winter sitting.
In contrast, Stephen Harper was in the House for 81 per cent of the Tuesday-to-Thursday Question Periods up to this point in the Winter 2012 sitting, the first winter sitting of his majority government.
This is nothing over which to set your hair on fire. We're only talking about three days when Mr. Trudeau was absent and Mr. Harper present, during two comparable sittings. But it contributes to an impression of a playboy prime minister that the Conservatives are doing everything in their power to stoke. "While Conservatives were fighting for Canadian jobs and the economy, Justin Trudeau was self-promoting in the U.S.," a recent fundraising email howled.
Such criticism is premature. The Liberals are moving aggressively on a packed agenda: infrastructure, indigenous issues, fighting climate change, voting reform. And now, as Daniel Leblanc reports, Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly is planning a sweeping review of culture policy. This government shows no hints of drift, and Mr. Trudeau is anything but an absentee prime minister.
But he might want to make a point of improving his attendance at QP. Besides, he's pretty good at it.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS MORNING
By Chris Hannay (@channay)
> A Canadian has been executed in the Philippines and another remains hostage, part of a group abducted by the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf. As Steven Chase writes, it's the first time the Prime Minister has had to directly confront a terror crisis.
> The Liberals continue their cabinet retreat in Kananaskis, Alta., where they once again heard from British "deliverology" guru Michael Barber, whose daily rate is reportedly a minimum of $8,000.
> Recreational and tourism projects will now qualify for the $14-billion New Building Canada Fund, after a rule change Monday by the federal Liberals.
> Bombardier, the manufacturer that has been seeking up to $1-billion in federal aid for its aerospace division, has again failed to deliver streetcars on time to the city of Toronto. "Bombardier's making a lot of asks of every level of government, as we all well know. I think that's something to keep in mind, how we measure the delivery of this project should influence that. But at the end of the day, step up, make the necessary investments and changes so that you change the schedule and meet your commitments," said Toronto Transit Commission chair Josh Colle.
> The federal Liberals say they understand how important it is to Albertans to build pipelines for new markets, though industry analysts are questioning the need in the current environment of low oil prices.
> And no, rumours to the contrary, Stephen Harper is not poised for a comeback.
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WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT
"The Duffy trial was not only a verdict on the lack of criminality of the charges levied against Senator Duffy, it's a lesson for all of Canada's political parties. In today's turbocharged social-media political frenzy, the fast and furious response might make some feel good but it carries risks. This is especially true for any government and was the trap the Conservatives fell into." – Nik Nanos (for subscribers).
Lawrence Martin (Globe and Mail): "The Governor-General is supposed to be impartial and [David] Johnston has been so. He's performed admirably in the post. Perhaps part of his thinking while bringing out his book at this time was to distance himself from the Harper breed and creed."
Gerald Caplan (Globe and Mail): "Any senator who took advantage of ambiguous Senate regulations and erred on the side of abusing their public trust was guilty of something. Even if it wasn't a criminal offence, at least it deserved an embarrassing public rebuke instead of the total whitewash that Justice Charles Vaillancourt gifted Senator Duffy."
Jen Gerson (National Post): "The barbaric cultural practices tipline? That was a desperate shark jump. To pretend that announcement wasn't targeting Muslims is insulting. Even those who supported the hotline must find themselves reeling at that suggestion. This wasn't a dog whistle, it was a bullhorn. [Conservative leadership candidate Kellie] Leitch could have admitted as much, offered an unequivocal apology and a promised to do better. Instead, she only took responsibility for the fact that she failed to convey her honest good wishes for women and children."
Susan Delacourt (Policy Options): "The rap against all this loose, wide-open 'cabinet government' is that it becomes less nimble. Advocates of Harper's approach argue that it may have been strict and disciplinarian, but it also avoided getting bogged down in process. Policy-makers in this PMO argue that the opposite is true – you can only be nimble if you delegate tasks widely throughout government. Harper may have been able to keep his hand on all files because he believed in minimalist government, but the Liberals came to power with a broad, wide-ranging platform."
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